The 2013 NSW Population Health Survey shows that 16.4% of all adults in NSW smoke. While this is higher than the 14.7% rate in 2011, the difference is not statistically significant and most likely reflects the change in survey methodology. In 2012, NSW Health implemented a new survey design that included mobile phones for the first time.
A smoking prevalence survey that can't statistically distinguish between 14.7% and 16.4% isn't much use, but the figures certainly doesn't imply that plain packaging has been a roaring success, to put it mildly.
Then again, are any neo-prohibitionist anti-smoking policies successful? Regular readers will know that the UK's long-term decline in smoking pretty much came to a halt in 2007 when the smoking ban ushered in an era of binge legislation against smokers. It was 21% then. It's 20.5% now.
Judging by the data in New South Wales, which starts from a lower base, the same bottoming out has occurred in Australia.
This graph shows seven years of essentially static smoking rates from 2006 to 2013, at a time when graphic health warnings, display bans, plain packaging and banning smoking in pubs, in cars and outdoors were all introduced with great fanfare. Lots of activity and plenty of promises, but no results to show for it.
We see the same abject failure if we look at the other poster boy for tobacco control, Ireland. And, as I showed last month, there is no correlation between the implementation of neo-prohibitionist anti-smoking policies and lower smoking rates in Europe. None whatsoever. Tobacco control, as practised by zealots today, simply does not work. It is frankly astonishing that this is only rarely commented upon by academics and is never noticed by politicians.
Brian Monteith has more on this subject at the Free Society.